Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Aves / Strigiformes / Tytonidae / Tyto / Species
Tyto alba - Barn owl (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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INFORMATION AVAILABLE

GENERAL & REFERENCES

EXTERNAL APPEARANCES

REPRODUCTION

BEHAVIOUR

NATURAL DIET

RANGE & HABITAT

CONSERVATION

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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Kerkuil (Dutch)
  • Effraie des clochers (French)
  • Schleiereule (German)
  • Barbagianni (Italian)
  • Lechuza común (Spanish)
  • Tornuggla (Swedish)

Names for newly-hatched

Chick, Nestling.

Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases

-

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References

Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B162, B163, B164, B165, B191

Aviculture references:

ORGANISATIONS
(UK Contacts)

ELECTRONIC LIBRARY
(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

  • Owls

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

  • Birds of Prey

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Aviculture Information

Notes

--
Individual Techniques linked in Wildpro

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length
Adult weight General Tyto alba alba 240-350g (B162).
Male --
Female --
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate --

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Head

Adult Bill Male Bill and cere pale pink-flesh. May have blue-grey or yellow tinge (B162, B191).
Variations (If present) --
Eyes Male Iris: Black-brown or very dark brown (B162, B191).
Variations(If present) --
Juvenile Bill Upper mandible ivory-pink; may have grey-horn or blue-grey tinge lower mandible pink. By 35th day, bill slate-blue or dull black. (B191) .
Eyes (Iris) Open from 8th day. Initially pale blue, from four weeks deep brown (B191).

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Legs

Adult Male
  • Relatively long.
  • Feathering on legs white (B162, B191)
  • Foot: dark grey-brown, yellow-brown, dirty yellow, or bright yellow; claws dark horn-brown or black. (B191)
Variations (If present) -
Juvenile
  • Upper surface of toes ivory-pink; may have grey-horn or blue-grey tinge.
  • By 35th day toes slate-blue or dull black.

(B191

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Plumage

Adult Male Summary:
  • Head: crown and hindneck golden-buff with isolated grey spots/streaks. Sides of neck golden-buff with black specks and variable white tinge. Facial disc white distinct, heart-shaped, with black and gold specks at edges ruff of stiff narrow feathers around edge. Eye: patch of rufous/cinnamon, at inner corner of eye and sometimes extending narrowly round eye
  • Upperparts mottled pale grey and buff/ochre or golden-buff.,
  • Underparts white to buff, with fine spotting particularly on sides. Chest and less frequently flanks may have yellow-buff wash.
  • Tail: White to pale cream buff or golden buff, with narrow dark bars.
  • Wings: Upper wing-coverts gold/buff and grey bars across wing. Flight feathers gold-buff with grey/white bars. Under wing-coverts white.

(B162, B164, B191)

Variations (If present) Tail:
  • Some birds have very pale central feathers.

Under-wing coverts variable:

  • In birds with yellowish chest, longer coverts slightly yellowish.
  • In birds with speckled underparts, speckled grey or black; in speckled birds greater under primary coverts slightly tinged golden-buff on tips and with some dusky marks.
  • In birds with uniform white underparts, uniform white.

Female:

  • Upperparts usually more grey.
  • Underparts (chest and sometimes flanks and breast) more often yellow-buff washed, also underparts including under wing-coverts tend to be more speckled.
  • Flight feathers and tail, bars may be more solidly dark grey.
  • (B191)

Tyto alba guttata, Tyto alba gracilirostris, Tyto alba schmitzi:

  • Underparts darker buff or yellow/orange.

(B162, B164)

Juvenile
  • Second feathering downy.
  • White to pale cream-buff or pale greyish-buff.
  • Starts growing by 10-15 days, completely replaced first down by 14-20 days.
  • Adult feathers replace gradually from 35-60 days.

(B191)

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

Semi-altricial; downy, helpless (B163, B191).

Bare skin (including cere, leg, and foot) pink-yellow or yellow-red, first down short and dense, white; central abdomen down sparse, patches on side of neck and rear of tarsus bare (B191).

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Reproduction

Reproductive Season

Time of year Britain and north-west Europe: eggs laid March/Early April to September. (B162).
No. of Clutches One or two, depending on food (vole) supplies (B162).

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Nest placement and structure

In holes: in tree, building, cliff, quarry, rock outcrop (B162, B163, B164).

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average 4-7 (B162, B163).
Range 2-14 (B162, B163).
Egg colour White. Smooth, elliptical, not glossy (B162, B163); 40mm (B163) 40x33mm (B191).

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Incubation

30-31 days (B162, B163).

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Hatching

Asynchronous (B163, B191).

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Fledging

50-55 days (B162, B163).

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Sexual Maturity

Males 1-2 years (B191).
Females 1-2 years (B191).

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Behaviour

Feeding Behaviour

Adults
  • Hunt using searching flight, with frequent changes of altitude, often at 1.5-4.5m, sideways movements, pauses and hovering.
  • Dives forwards, drops with wings raised and 'somersaults' when dropping to ground.

(B162, B163)

Newly-hatched --

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Parental Behaviour

Nest-building Not applicable (B163).
Incubation By female (B163).
Newly-hatched Tended by both parents: male brings food to female initially, while female broods young almost constantly (B163, B191).
Juveniles

Dependant on parents for 3-5 weeks after hatching (B163, B191).

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Social Behaviour

Intra-specific
  • Solitary or pairs.
  • Pairs and individuals may hold territory all year.
  • Territory sizes vary with food supply.
  • Boundaries usually not rigidly defended.

(B162)

Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

Monogamous (B163).

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Predation in Wild

--

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Activity Patterns

Roosts in daytime:
  • Uses well-concealed site e.g. under roof, hole in wall, tunnel between bales of hay.
  • Less often in dense evergreen tree cover.
  • Regularly re-uses same site
  • Also loafs for long periods on ground.

(B191)

Circadian Nocturnal and crepuscular (B163, B164).

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Natural Diet

Adults

  • Small mammals: mice, voles, shrews.
  • Also small birds, frogs, toads, insects

(B162, B163, B164)

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Newly-hatched

--

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Normal Western Palearctic, Arabia eastwards to south-east Asia, south to Australia, sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, Americas north to southernmost Canada (B162).

Movements:

  • Western Palearctic: basically resident. Young birds may disperse (B162, B163, B164).
Occasional and Accidental  
Introduced

 

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Habitat

Open lowlands with some trees present:
  • Farmland with spinneys, copses, hedges, ditches, ponds and banks, rough grass.
  • Also e.g. roadside herbage.

(B162, B163, B164)

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Conservation

Intraspecific variation

  • Marked variations: insular populations and clinal variations (B162).
  • Some subspecies underparts buff (B162).

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -
(Importance)

Widespread decline (B162).

General Legislation
  • This species is listed on Schedule 1 - Part I (Birds protected by special penalties: Notes on the revised schedules state "Birds protected by special penalties at all times") of the LUK2 - Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 of the United Kingdom. (W5.Oct01)
  • This species is listed on Schedule 3 - Part I (Birds which may be sold alive at all times if ringed and bred in captivity: Notes on the revised schedules state "NB: Certain birds on Schedule 4 may also be sold under licence provided they are registered with the DETR") of the LUK2 - Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 of the United Kingdom. (W5.Oct01)
  • This species is listed on Schedule 9 - Part 1 (Animals and plants to which Section 14 applies (ie. may not be released into or grown in the wild) ) of the LUK2 - Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 of the United Kingdom. (W5.Oct01)

The following information is quoted from the section on Wildlife Crime in the website of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (W5.Jan01):

  • "The Barn owl has now been included in Part I of Schedule 9 to the WCA [Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981] and section 14(1)(b) of the Act applies. Subject to the provisions of this part if any person releases or allows to escape into the wild any animal which is included in Part I of Schedule 9 he shall be guilty of an offence. Barn owls, however, can still be released as long as a licence under section 16 has been issued authorising a person to do so. This licence is obtainable from the DETR.
  • The Barn owl is also a species of bird that is included in Schedule 1 and is, therefore, protected by a special penalty."

A general licence (DETR general licence number WLF 100100, which came into force 7th January 1997) allows the release of wild barn owls which have been taken into care temporarily for the purposes of rehabilitation. A special licence must be obtained from DETR (now DEFRA) in order to release captive bred barn owls. (J15.20.w3, D53)

CITES listing Listing not yet included.
Red-data book listing Listing not yet included.
Threats
  • Loss of habitat for foraging, and of nesting and roosting sites, due to intensification of agriculture and urbanisation.
  • Pesticides.
  • Road traffic accidents.

(B162)

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Captive Populations

--

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Trade

--

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